I was given a copy of ‘The Farming Ladder’ to read by Iona’s dad not long after we moved up to Scotland. It took me a while to get in to, being written in the 1940s the language and style of writing can take a bit of getting used to, but persevering with it has been well worth it.
I usually really hate it when people claim that “this book/TV show/movie/piece of music/plate of fish and chips (delete as applicable) has changed my life” but The Farming Ladder came pretty close to changing my mind on that one.
The book tells the story of the author, George Henderson, and his path to, and subsequent life spent, farming.
Henderson was born and raised in the city. His father was the son of a poor Scottish farmer who left for London in the search for a better life, meaning George had no childhood on the farm surrounded by animals and the opportunity to learn his trade. Despite this, he knew from a very young age that agriculture was the path he intended to follow.
Henderson worked hard in the pursuit of his dream, learning his trade working on dairy and poultry farms and as a shepherd in the Derbyshire peaks, all along working towards his goal of becoming a farmer in 5 years. He achieved it in 4.
Henderson took on a derelict farm in the Cotswolds with his brother Frank, using £150 of capital the brothers had worked hard to save up to invest in pigs, poultry and jersey cattle. The pair farmed the land intensively, using modern techniques and clever use of their livestock to make the very most of their 82 acres.
I found the book hugely inspiring. Henderson put in a hell of a lot of work, farming long hours with very few breaks (the few breaks the brothers did take were even used to set up a very successful side business manufacturing and selling corn stores.) and while it was a very different world when the Henderson Bros. entered the farming world in the 1920s, their example just goes to prove what can be achieved with hard work and dedication.
The book taught me a lot and I came away with a whole new source of inspiration and drive as well as plenty of tips and advice that I plan to use in my own farming ventures in the future.